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Antibiotics in Food Animals, What are the Concerns?

Antibiotics used while raising beef, poultry, and swine, has some scientists concerned. What should consumers know?
Staphylococcus Aureus
Staphylococcus Aureus, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Chicago Public Schools took a public policy stance in 2011 by serving local, antibiotic chicken in 473 of its schools. This action makes the statement that consumers have a preference for food that is free of antibiotics and is locally grown. Independent of the view of farmers, ranchers, or producers, consumers do have a voice and are influenced by how science and technology is positioned.

The debate on the use of antibiotics in food animals is not new. In 1999 consumer focused petitions were filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) with the US FDA to "cancel its approval of the "herdwide and flockwide" uses of several classes of antibiotics for promoting growth and preventing disease (in the absence of existing disease) in chickens, swine, and beef cattle, out of concern that such use will spur resistance and reduce the drugs' effectiveness in humans." (via Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy).

The debate is also not just US centric. In 2006 the European Union issued legislation banning the use of antibiotics in animal feed for growth promotion. This has lead to research looking into the prophylactic uses of antibiotics, comparing EU farm operations with US farm operations. One paper outlines several findings that imply that even if prophylactic use of antibiotics in food animals is stopped, this has "not translated into lower levels of antibiotic resistance in human patients." ( ref Assessing The Results Of The EU Ban On Antibiotic Feed Additives).

In October, 2011, The National Institute for Animal Agriculture's setup a conference series, Antibiotic Use In Food Animals, to help provide consumers, scientists, and producers with information on the current issues and help dispel myths that have surfaced about antibiotic use in food animals.

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